Being the world’s youngest chess grandmaster “opens doors”, says Misha Friedman in The New York Times. Grandmasters are a dime a dozen but being the youngest secures prestige. Sergei Karjakin, born in Crimea, was 12 in 2002 when he assumed the title that even world champions such as Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen didn’t achieve. He held it for 18 years, losing the title last June. Karjakin’s face was plastered across Moscow billboards and he appeared on the most popular talk shows. Companies paid thousands to sponsor him, with one firm putting up $300,000. When Vladimir Putin later invited him to his residence, his first question was: “You became a grandmaster at 12, didn’t you?” “Yes,” Karjakin said. “I was the youngest.”
But becoming a young chess champion in Russia is a racket. Pushy parents and coaches spent $1,000 a pop getting their would-be wonderkids into key tournaments. Suggestions of bungs are rife. Allegations that Karjakin’s opponents at his key tournament were either pressurised or paid off to help him win the title of youngest grandmaster have been firmly denied by him. “I believe it is possible that if I went to the effort, I think I could get my dog a grandmaster’s title,” said Nigel Short, the vice president of chess’s governing body.
The refugees heading to the Olympics
Under a neutral Olympic flag, the Syrian boxer Wessam Salamana, 35, will be fighting “for all refugees” in Japan, says David Rose in The Times. The official refugee team of 29 includes athletes who have fled Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Eritrea. They all have official refugee status and will compete in 12 sports. Other Syrians in the team include cyclist Ahmad Wais, swimmers Yusra Mardini and Alaa Maso, and badminton player Aram Mahmoud.
“Up until now, I’ve only boxed for one country, the land of my birth,” said Salamana, a 5ft 3in bantamweight. He fled to Germany with his wife and child after competing for his country at the 2012 London Olympics. The war in Syria had made it “impossible to live there”. But now “I’m boxing for the whole world.”
Tokyo family values
Team GB is set to take eight sets of siblings to this year’s Olympic Games, says The Independent. All of the athletes will compete in the same sport as their brother or sister. And if Harry Martin is taken off the reserves bench for hockey, the number of family pairings will rise to nine – his sister Hannah will be playing for the women’s team. With “only” six pairs of siblings having attended the Rio Games, this sets a new record – hopefully the first of many for the team this year.